Posts

Photo: Brian Megens

My Way to Make Money with Yagmur Masmas of aGreenStory

As bills don’t pay themselves an income is required, some obtain it by working for a wage, others by starting up their own business and some are so talented that they can make an income out of their hobby. In this column ‘My Way to Make Money’ we interview a student or a university employee about their job or business and ask them questions about how they experience their work. This week we interview Yagmur Masmas, the budding entrepreneur from aGreenStory. Although a UCM student, she is currently doing her minor at Wageningen University. She has been fortunate and talented enough to make a living out of her passion and establishing her own company. Yagmur has featured in a number of competitions in Maastricht and beyond, and has talked about aGreenStory on a number of platforms. 

My company is…
A supplier of sustainable office stationery and supplies and other accessories such laptop bags. People also use our products as promotion gifts for their company so we also do custom made orders for organisations. We sell our products online through our webshop and we deliver them to the customers via our pick-up services at university campuses, but we also join various fairs and markets.

My job is…
I’m in charge of customer service. My number and e-mail are on the website and I reply to people’s inquiries, like for example, students asking about the pick-up service or a company asking a quotation on a bulk order. I do part of the website, but this part is something my co-founder and I do together. I keep the website updates, take pictures of the products, write the text and deal with the SEO (search engine optimisation). For a long time, I did social media but now some interns have temporarily taken over that. I also coordinate the pick-up points, making sure everything goes well.

I also analyse in which ways our products are sustainable, so before we launch a new article, I do the research into the sustainability aspects. Sometimes you can find some of these details online like part of it is made of recycled materials, but then some information is missing, for example how much water is used. Quite often, the producers only state the good things and not the others and that counts. It’s a tough thing to do so it’s important to develop a personal relationship with the suppliers.

My company started…
Officially, last February when Sander (my co-founder) and I decided to work on it together, but the idea already started when I was in high school. I was looking for exercise books, but sustainable ones, and I could only find really expensive products. I thought that was ridiculous so I searched a bit further. In the end, I ended up doing a pilot in my high school with a little shop. We were fantasising it with friends on whether we could sell it in the whole of the Netherlands, but back then I didn’t have the knowledge and skills to make it happen yet.

Photo: Brian Megens

Yagmur of a GreenStory

A regular day at work looks like…
Me working everywhere. I travel a lot so I often work in trains or buses. My work is not structured so even during class, I’d be replying to e-mails. I would say I spend half of my time studying and the other half for aGreenStory, taking into account that during holidays I work full-time.

The thing that makes the job hard is…
That it’s very difficult to plan my time.

The main reason for choosing this job is…
Firstly because I thought it was missing in the Dutch market, and I’m in the position to fill it in. I’m also intrinsically motivated to contribute to sustainability and I like talking about it in different events. It helps that the work is flexible, so during exam weeks, I can devote my time to studying.

I didn’t expect..
For long distance collaboration to work. At first, I wasn’t sure about working with people from far away but for us, it works. Also, I didn’t expect how because we are a sustainable company, people are more critical of our practices. So for example, the delivery of our products are not 100% sustainable, but we’re working on it.

My goal for the next years…
Is to work on it full-time. Over the next few years, I hope to have an aGreenStory line so our own products designed by us in stores and to have a number of regular company customers who have integrated the practices of refilling pens and so on, instead of buying new articles. I’m also working on having the whole business process 100% sustainable, from the products itself to the delivery. We’re launching a new website in 2016 so I’m really excited about that too.

I love my job because…
Of the team, it’s a great and motivated team! I’m very happy to be doing something positive to make the world a little bit better. It’s also a nice feeling when you get positive feedbacks from the customers, that feeling of satisfaction.

 

The Freedom of Freedom: Liberal Arts and Sciences.

It’s like a walking dinner; many options, many tastes, all looking really good, making you confused and uncertain. You want to take a bit of it all, taste it all, being sure you did not miss something. In the end, you do not know what you really had, but you have experienced a lot. You feel even more confused since the olives you normally avoided, tasted better than your favorite scampis.

This is my study. Liberal Arts and Sciences, the study of which your aunt has never heard of, your neighbor argues it to be useless and your lecturer claims it to be the best study. And you, as a student of Liberal Arts and Sciences often has to justify your study and broad course curriculum, arguing it is not a only about utopian talks. Read more

The Essence of UCM

Now that I have survived an entire period of studying at the University College, plus a full “reflection” week, I think I am finally qualified to blog about the University College, and what exactly, I love about it.

What is unique about UCM to most European student is the fact that it is a Liberal Arts college.  At UCM we choose one of three concentrations: social sciences, humanities, or sciences (or in some cases two of the three concentrations) and then build our major from courses within our chosen concentration, plus a few outside of the concentration.  Most people build a more specific focus within their concentration such as psychology or international relations.  As an American, the concept of Liberal Arts has never been foreign to me as many American colleges offer majors in Liberal Arts.  It’s impossible for me to compare UCM’s Liberal Arts program to American Liberal Arts programs, as I’ve never attended college in the U.S., but there is something about UCM that makes me sure no school- American or not- could be the same. Read more

Dutch Student Associations and INKOM

INKOM vs. ‘Fresher’s Week’

A lot has happened since INKOM. I have heard a lot of feedback about INKOM – which is generally an amazing party to start off student life here in Maastricht.

However, INKOM has been mistaken by many as being an equivalent to ‘FreshersWeek’ in the UK (the first week of universities with introduction activities, but best known for the parties). INKOM began as a way for one of the biggest Student Associations in Maastricht to gain members. This was later adopted by the university but still has the overtone of ‘student association’.

Read more

Introducing…

After the madness of INKOM, (which I will blog about later) my faculty has their own 3 ‘Introduction Days’. This is where the students get to know each-other, begin to understand PBL,  and begin to understand where everything is in the building. At the end of these three days is a MASSIVE party.

And for now I have a very important message for all party-goers, new students, older students, inbetween students, UCM and non-UCM students:

 

THERE IS A MASSIVE INTRODUCTION PARTY ON WEDNESDAY (tomorrow) AT CAFÉ CLINIQ AT 10PM.

 

Below is the link to the Facebook event and everyone is welcome. Bring friends if you like!

https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=211438712244364

 

Hope to see you there!

21 Tips to Survive UCM (For UK Students)

So, after a semester at UCM, what I can say is this: a few words of warning/experience/advice/recommendation for future UCM students, especially those coming from the UK:

– UCM is tough. It is a higher work load than many other Universities. You will hear of your friends at uni in the UK doing far less work  with longer holidays. But this is the price we pay for doing so many different disciplines.

– Don’t do Contemporary World History in your first period (or Philosophy of Science). They are killers.

– A 7 is fine. UCM works on the 1 – 10 grading basis (not A, B, C)  10 is the best and 5.5 is a pass. However, I made the mistake of thinking that therefore a 7 is not really that good, where, in reality nobody ever really gets a 10. A 9 is almost unheard of. An 8 is pretty awesome. 7 is above average I would say. 6 is more than passing, and probably what most people are getting in their first semester. 5.5 is  a pass and passing at UCM means that in fact you are doing really well.

– Don’t feel guilty about what some of my friends call the ‘Native-English -guilt’. Generally UCM-ers speak more than one language, and it is not unusual to meet those enviable people who speak English, Dutch, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Urdu, Swahili and Ancient Greek. Oh, and they are learning Norwegian- just on the side. Don’t feel bad about this, as many UK students have simply not had as much opportunity to learn other languages in such depth. You get the opportunity to go to the language centre as part of UCM and many of your fellow students can help teach you.

–  Don’t underestimate the level of English. You may think that UCM is full of Germans and Dutch using English as a second or third language and therefore as a UK student, of course you would have a higher standard of English. But don’t be fooled, the standard set is high and I get the impression that UK students are not let off lightly.

– UCM is APA. APA is the American Psychological Association form of formatting essays. It is probably different from the footnote-ing style you may be used to with Highers/A-Levels etc. This takes time to get used to and UCM is very strict about the implementation of APA.

– You will have to specialise. You have an academic advisor and you have to plan out your  curriculum rigorously so there is not really a lot of room for trying too many different things out.

– Apartments in Maastricht are very different from halls in the UK. Be warned though, I would recommend getting into an international student house as the Dutch student houses can be a bit cliquey and often they do not have a ‘community’ feel, rather just individual rooms. This didn’t really suit me as I like to talk to people, especially if they are living one metre away. The Guesthouse is often full of exchange students and is a little pricey. Living in Belgium is an option, but then you cannot get the studyfinance. Also it is really quite far away.

– Germans are everywhere. Just saying.

–  You sometimes get asked questions in lectures. They notice if you fall asleep… not that I have ever done that….

– Bring some 50 cent coins for the coffee/hot choc machine on the first days, it helps you get through the day and the closest cash machine is at the Business faculty.

– Work Hard, Party Harder. Pretty self-explanatory.

– Referring to the point above, I would say that the Alla is to be avoided at all times unless completely drunk and reckless. If this is the case then I encourage you to enjoy the Alla with all your drunken might.

– Jobs are tricky-ish to get, but once you start to get to know people they become more and more easy to find out about. But having a job and UCM is also a challenge.

– Brits often drop out of UCM. (I blame the UK education system and the fact that not many UK students study abroad)

– Join Universalis. You get discounts. On everything.(It’s really easy to join on the Intro Days)

– Get an Albert Heijn Bonus Card.

– Speak up in PBL

– Join clubs and stuff, it can be lonely when you are not on a campus/in halls

– Choose Euroshopper

– Get a bike, you’re in the Netherlands now… Should cost about 50 to 80 euros.

And that’s just about all I can say so far…hope it helps for some of you who are hopefully starting at UCM in August. After just a semester I have to say that UCM is one of the best places to be, although tricky at first.